By: Emma Blackman-Mathis, Kennel Manager
Shelter and food for feral and outdoor cats is always a concern, however it can become a crisis when the weather chills to below freezing. Providing food, water, and shelter for our community cat friends when the weather gets bad does not have to be a complicated or expensive process. When creating community cat shelters, it is important to remember to give protection not just from cold, but other types of elements such as wind, and water. For this reason, there is a cheap and effective homemade model you can produce from a Rubbermaid bin, some straw, and a Styrofoam cooler. Simply cut entrance holes in both the Styrofoam Cooler and Rubbermaid bin. The holes should be the same size and big enough to allow a cat to pass through them. When you place the Styrofoam cooler inside the Rubbermaid bin, the doors should line up. Then line the space between the cooler and the bin with straw, put some straw on the inside of the cooler, and put both lids on. This shelter will be water and rain resistant, wind proof, and keep the cat protected from the cold temperatures.
When providing food and water for community cats, it is imperative that you provide fresh water as frequently as possible, especially when the water is at risk for freezing. It is also important to only provide the amount of food appropriate for the number of animals you are supporting. If you wish to support only one community cat, it is not more effective to dump a whole bag of cat food near the shelter. If more food than one animal can eat is provided, it will actually attract additional animals. Put out only the amount recommended per day for the number of animals you support, and to reduce the risk of attracting more animals even further, you can split the feeding into once in the morning and once in the evening. The final and most important step you can take to protect community cats from harm in the winter is to get them spayed or neutered. SICSA offers our low cost pricing to any member of the community doing Trap-Neuter-Return for community cats. Spay/Neuter prevents unwanted litters, reduces the cats’ natural territorial aggression, and prevents serious diseases such as pyometra, an infection in the uterus. If you are interested in learning more about how to support a community cat colony, or are looking for more information on different community cat housing, follow the links below:
http://www.alleycat.org/sheltergallery – Ideas and other options for outdoor cat housing
http://www.neighborhoodcats.org/HOW_TO_FERAL_CAT_WINTER_SHELTER – supporting community cats in winter
http://alleycatadvocates.org/communitycat-care-center/creating-winter-shelters/ – Importance of winter support and shelter